You may have seen movies or television shows where people have been ordered to enter addiction treatment programs, or perhaps you know someone with that experience. Even if you’ve heard of court-mandated therapy, you may not understand precisely how it works. Learn about what you can expect from court-ordered rehab. 

What Is Court-ordered Rehab?

Court-mandated therapy or rehab means a judge ordered you to complete an addiction treatment program, which could happen at a drug court. A drug court helps people find addiction treatment resources to recover and live healthily. Drug courts combine legal entities such as judges and defense with other entities such as mental health and social services. Drug courts recognize that not everyone who commits a crime is dangerous and that most people need help, rather than imprisonment, to help them reduce criminal behavior. Additionally, drug courts note that providing people with therapy and other treatments can be a better recovery path than being incarcerated.

In drug courts, you must agree you are guilty of your crime, which is usually non-violent. When sentenced like this, your sentence is reduced, or you may not need to go to prison. Instead, you get treated for your substance use disorder.

How Does Court-ordered Rehab Work?

If someone is sentenced to complete court-ordered rehab, they are given stipulations for finding a treatment program. Often, rehab is ordered as an alternative to a prison sentence. In many cases, a person will be allowed to select where they attend treatment but likely with specific requirements, such as complying with all treatment program recommendations, engaging in weekly appointments and submitting regular drug screens.

Court-ordered rehab is offered as an alternative to incarceration because crime and substance misuse often go hand-in-hand. For example, research has shown people who misuse opioid drugs are significantly more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system, and the crime risk increases with more severe opioid use. 

Fortunately, courts recognize drug and alcohol use can majorly factor in crime. People have poor judgment when under the influence of drugs and alcohol and can commit crimes to get money or goods to support an addiction. The court orders treatment because it is important to invest in people’s well-being and help them become stronger, healthier and less likely to commit crimes while using drugs and alcohol. It also recognizes that many people who commit crimes under the influence would not have done so without substance misuse. Substance misuse is the problem, and the drug court tries to remedy this by ordering addiction treatment to find a lasting solution. 

Is Court-ordered Rehab Effective?

According to a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, studies found that drug courts significantly reduced crime. Furthermore, well-designed cases reduced crime by up to 35% compared to traditional court systems. Additional research found that people were more likely to engage in and remain in court-ordered rehab when there was a threat of longer prison time associated with failing to complete treatment. Based on these findings, there is evidence that court-ordered rehab can motivate people to finish treatment and change substance misuse and other behaviors linked to criminal activity.  

How Long Is Court-ordered Rehab? 

There is no standard length of court-ordered rehab, as each person’s needs will differ based on their specific situation and addiction severity. The court may sentence you to remain in treatment for a certain time or require you to comply with the recommendations of your treatment center. To be effective, experts recommend people stay in rehab for at least three months. 

Types of Court-ordered Rehab

If you’re required to complete court-ordered treatment, you may expect to go to an inpatient rehab facility, but this isn’t always the case. Courts can differ in the types of treatment they mandate. Common treatment options vary, including substance abuse classes, inpatient treatment or counseling. 

Substance Abuse Class

Some courts may refer criminal offenders to complete a substance abuse class to learn about addiction’s dangers. These classes aim to motivate people to change their behaviors to reduce the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol in their lives. Upon completing this class, a person may have their criminal offense dismissed or reduced to a lower level offense or be released from probation.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

For more severe cases of substance misuse or addiction, people may be court-ordered to enroll in a formal treatment program at an addiction rehab center. Some people are sent to complete inpatient treatment, requiring them to live on-site at a treatment center. Others may be ordered to participate in an outpatient program, allowing them to live at home while attending appointments at a clinic or rehab facility. 

Counseling

Sometimes, substance misuse results from an underlying mental health condition. People may be referred to work with a counselor for one-on-one sessions in this case. During these sessions, people can learn tools for coping with stress and managing triggers without turning to substance misuse. 

Criteria To Obtain Court-ordered Rehab 

Each jurisdiction will have its own eligibility criteria to determine who can participate in drug court or receive court-ordered rehab instead of jail or prison time. Generally, people who take part in drug court have been charged with non-violent, drug-related offenses.

Drug court is often best-suited for people who meet the following criteria:

  • They are likely to commit another criminal offense if not treated.
  • They have a serious substance use disorder.
  • They have been either charged with or convicted of a criminal offense. 

Who Pays for Court-ordered Rehab? 

In most cases, people who seek court-ordered treatment must cover the price of their treatment. However, insurance programs, including government-provided healthcare plans, often cover some of the rehab’s costs. It is important to discuss your coverage with your insurance company and verify your benefits before enrolling in a treatment program. 

What Happens if You Fail To Complete Court-ordered Rehab?

Since court-ordered rehab is typically offered as an alternative to jail or prison time, you could serve time if you fail to complete your rehab program. In some cases, you may be fined or given extended probation time for failing to finish treatment. If you were ordered to complete court-ordered rehab instead of a conviction, you could be convicted of a crime if you do not comply with treatment. 

Statistics on Court-ordered Rehab

The drug court statistics below show just how beneficial court-ordered rehab can be:

  • Almost half of all counties in the U.S. offer a drug court.
  • Research shows that every $1 invested in drug courts provides $2.21 in benefits to the criminal justice system.
  • A national study with drug court participants found that 84% had no re-arrests for serious crimes in the year following drug court graduation. 
  • High-quality drug courts can reduce criminal activity by up to 35% compared to traditional courts, demonstrating the effectiveness of court-ordered treatment. 

RELATED: The Dangers of Drugged Driving

Ongoing counseling can help you maintain sobriety.

At The Recovery Village Columbus, we believe you can work through substance misuse and are here to support you in your efforts. Contact us today to discuss possibilities for addiction treatment.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
Jenni-Jacobsen
Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more
Sources

Winkelman, Tyler; Chang, Virginia; Binswanger, Ingrid. “Health, Polysubstance Use, and Criminal […]Levels of Opioid Use.” JAMA Network Open, July 6, 2018. Accessed September 2, 2022.

Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Drug Courts.” May 2011. Accessed September 2, 2022.

Rempel, Michael; DeStefano, Christine. “Predictors of Engagement in Court-Mandat[…] Court, 1996–2000.” Drug Courts in Operation: Current Research, 2001. Accessed September 2, 2022.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: […]Research-Based Guide.” September 18, 2020. Accessed September 2, 2022.
National Drug Court Resource Center. “What are drug courts?” Accessed September 2, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.